IN THE presentation last month did we not have an adequate back ground for an appraisal and understanding of the texts involved in Colossians and Ephesians? Were not the expressions Paul used familiar to those to whom he wrote? Did they not have their Old Testament Scriptures to confirm his words of counsel? Was he not putting in script the very language they understood? If so, they would know what the apostle meant when he mentioned that something was to be abolished.
Ellen C. White and the Ceremonial Law
From what we have reviewed it is evident that Ellen White had specific reference to the law of sacrifices as that which was abolished at the cross. Her statements are very clear in this regard:
The distinction between the two systems is broad and clear. The ceremonial system was made up of symbols pointing to Christ, to His sacrifice and His priesthood. This ritual law, with its sacrifices and ordinances, was to be performed by the He brews until type met antitype in the death of Christ, the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world. Then all the sacrificial offerings were to cease. It is this law that Christ "took . . . out of the way, nailing it to His cross." But concerning the law of Ten Commandments the psalmist declares, "Forever, O Lord, Thy word is settled in heaven." 1
The scribes and Pharisees, expecting to see Jesus at the Passover, had laid a trap for Him. But Jesus, knowing their purpose, had absented Himself from this gathering, "Then came together unto Him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes." . . .
As before, the ground of complaint was His disregard of the traditional precepts that encumbered the law of God. These were professedly designed to guard the observance of the law, but they were regarded as more sacred than the law itself. When they came in collision with the commandments given from Sinai, preference was given to the rabbinical precepts.
Among the observances most strenuously enforced was that of ceremonial purification. A neglect of the forms to be observed before eating was accounted a heinous .sin, to be punished both in this world and in the next; and it was regarded as a virtue to destroy the transgressor.
The rules in regard to purification were numberless. The period of a lifetime was scarcely sufficient for one to learn them all. The life of those who tried to observe the rabbinical requirements was one long struggle against ceremonial defilement, an endless round of washings and purifications. While the people were occupied with trifling distinctions, and observances which God had not required their attention was turned away from the great principles of His law. 2
Though they [the teachers of the Jewish nation] said of themselves, "The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord are we," yet they crucified the Originator of all the Jewish economy, Him to whom all their ordinances pointed. They failed to discern the veiled mystery of godliness; Christ Jesus remained veiled to them. The truth, the life, the heart of all their service, was discarded. They held, and still hold, the mere husks, the shadows, the figures symbolizing the true. A figure for the time appointed, that they might discern the true, became so perverted by their own inventions, that their eyes were blinded. They did not realize that type met antitype in the death of Jesus Christ. The greater their perversion of figures and symbols, the more confused their minds became, so that they could not see the perfect fulfillment of the Jewish economy, instituted and established by Christ, and pointing to Him as the substance. Meats and drinks and divers ordinances were multiplied until ceremonial religion constituted their only worship. 3
The Biblical testimony speaks of "the handwriting of ordinances" (Col. 2:14) and "the law of commandments contained in ordinances" (Eph. 2:15) as that which was abolished, meaning the law of sacrifices.
Concerning the law of sacrifices, the Spirit of Prophecy states that it has no force after Christ's death (Selected Messages, book 1, p. 238; The SDA Bible Commentary, Ellen G. White Comments, on 2 Cor. 3:7-11, pp. 1094, 1095), and that it was abrogated when Christ died (Selected Messages, book 1, p. 239).
Other Things Done Away
But there were other things which were done away or nailed "to his cross" (Col. 2:14). These were the multitudinous regulations and injunctions that the Jewish leaders had added to the God-given ordinances, not only of those pertaining to sacrifices, but to all the other divine ordinances of Sabbath observance and other precepts. This was carried to such an extent that religion became an intolerable burden and a veritable yoke of bondage.
Christ was not exclusive, and He had given special offense to the Pharisees by departing in this respect from their rigid rules. He found the domain of religion fenced in by high walls of seclusion, as too sacred a matter for everyday life. These walls of partition He overthrew. In His contact with men He did not ask, What is your creed? To what church do you belong? He exercised His helping power in behalf of all who needed help. Instead of secluding Himself in a hermit's cell in order to show His heavenly character, He labored earnestly for humanity.4
The people whom God had called to be the pillar and ground of the truth had be come representatives of Satan. They were doing the work that he desired them to do, taking a course to misrepresent the character of God, and cause the world to look upon Him as a tyrant. The very priests who ministered in the temple had lost sight of the significance of the service they per formed. They had ceased to look beyond the symbol to the thing signified. In presenting the sacrificial offerings they were as actors in a play. The ordinances which God Himself had appointed were made the means of blinding the mind and hardening the heart. God could do no more for man through these channels. The whole system must be swept away.5
So these two things came to an end when our Lord expired on Calvary's hill--the law of sacrifices and the Jewish accretions to God's ordinances.
The apostolic church in its very early days had to meet these and many other problems. The leaders guided by the Holy Spirit carefully studied the crucial queries as they arose. To many of the newly converted Jews it was not easy to give up the many feasts and customs to which they had been accustomed, but well-thought-out plans were developed and published, which brought great joy and comfort to the believers, both Jew and Gentile (Acts 15:31).
"When there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe." He reasoned that the Holy Spirit had decided the matter under dispute by descending with equal power upon the uncircumcised Gentiles and the circumcised Jews. He recounted his vision, in which God had presented before him a sheet filled with all manner of four-footed beasts and had bidden him kill and eat. When he refused, affirming that he had never eaten that which was common or unclean, the answer had been, "What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common." 6
The Jewish church might observe the ordinances of the Mosaic law if they chose, while those ordinances should not be made obligatory upon converts from the Gentiles. 7
(Read also Acts 15:13-29 and The Acts of the Apostles, pages 190-193, to get the full picture.)
One thing stands out clear and distinct. While the law of sacrifices was temporary and the accretions were unnecessary, the law of Jehovah in its eternal principles and in its expanded form for this sinful world is forever.
All his commandments are sure. They stand fast for ever and ever (Ps. 111:7, 8).
1. Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 365.
2. The Desire of Ages, pp. 395, 396.
3. Fundamentals of Christian Education, p. 398.
4. The Desire of Ages, p. 86.
5. Ibid., p. 36.
6. The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 192, 193.
7. The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 1111.